British armed forces sign 69 Irish recruits

70 Irish recruits have joined the British Army

By Ralph Riegel and Barry Duggan

BRITAIN'S armed forces are signing up a new Irish recruit on average every five days.

The revelation came as the latest recruitment figures for the British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy showed dissident Republican threats have failed to stem the numbers seeking a military career across the Irish Sea.

Ministry of Defence (MOD) figures, released to the Herald, showed 69 Irish citizens joined British defence units in 2013.

That represents a stabilisation of recruitment which had suffered a blip in 2012 after almost a decade of continued increase.

In 2012, 70 Irish citizens joined the British Army which contrasted with 123 Irish citizens opting to join in 2011.

The 44pc decline between 2011/2012 has been blamed on the publicity following a bungled attempt by dissident republicans to lure a Limerick-born soldier serving with the British Army into a trap while he was home on Christmas leave.

Prior to that the recruitment of Irish citizens into Britain's army, navy and air force reached its highest level since World War Two over the past decade, with numbers increasing, year on year, from 2007.

There was concern that the targeting of Irish recruits by dissident Republicans was behind the sharp decline three years ago.


MOD sources stressed that there are many factors involved in the fluctuation of recruitment numbers, ranging from the scaling down of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to the recession in the Republic and perceived threats from dissident republicans.

In December 2012, gardai foiled a plot to target a Limerick-born soldier serving with Britain's Royal Irish Regiment while he was about to return home on Christmas leave.

The man had been befriended on Facebook by a dissident republican volunteer who pretended to be an Irish resident interested in military matters.

In fact, the person was attempting to confirm when the soldier would be home on leave and what his precise movements would be around the mid-west.

In January 2013, the Continuity IRA directly threatened all Irish citizens serving with Britain's armed forces.

The CIRA threat was read out at the Sean South commemoration in Limerick.

"We have seen from recent years that Irishmen are considering a career in the British army - the same British army that holds six of our counties," they warned.

"Whether they are motivated by financial reasons or a sense of adventurism, we take this opportunity to say that the moment you don a British uniform, you become a legitimate target for the IRA."

Since then, British army security officials have briefed all Irish recruits about personal safety while returning home.